Development of mushroom mycelium based biocomposites for fashion products

EPA Grant Number: SU839272
Title: Development of mushroom mycelium based biocomposites for fashion products
Investigators: Cao, Huantian
Current Investigators: Cao, Huantian , Cobb, Kelly Ann , Silverman, Jillian , Tang, Wing
Institution: University of Delaware
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: October 23, 2017 through October 22, 2018 (Extended to August 31, 2019)
Project Amount: $14,999
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Challenge Area - Chemical Safety


The research team will partner with Phillips Mushroom Farms (Kennett Square, PA) and Goodwill DE (The Recycling Center located in New Castle, DE) to develop mushroom mycelium based biocomposites and use the biocomposites to develop fashion prototypes. Locally grown mushroom species such as Lentinula edodes (Shiitake mushroom), Grifola frondosa (Hen of the Woods or Maitake mushroom), Pleurotus ostreatus (Oyster mushroom), Pleurotus eryngii (King Oyster mushroom), and Agaricus bisporus (White Button mushroom) will be investigated. Chicken feather and cellulose textile waste from Goodwill DE will be used as growing substrates to provide nutrient sources and also provide structural support for the composite material. We will complete four objectives in the project: (a) screening mushroom species and growing substrates (agricultural waste and textile waste) to identify appropriate starting materials for mycelium biocomposite development; (b) developing mycelium-based biocomposites, and testing mechanical and comfort properties of the biocomposite materials; (c) designing and developing fashion prototypes; (d) developing educational tools and demonstrating the composites and prototypes.


The global apparel and footwear industries use a large quantity of petrochemicals, a depleting resource, to produce 55.2 million tons of synthetic fibers every year. At the same time, Americans are throwing away 14 million tons of clothing, and most of them contain nonbiodegradable textile materials that are sent to landfills. The global trade of apparel and footwear also causes huge environmental impacts including water, land, energy, and CO2 emission. Local production and the use of bio-based renewable resources to develop biodegradable clothing materials provide possible solutions to these environmental problems. Mycelium-based biocomposites have recently gained increasing interest as an innovative sustainable material. In published mycelium-based biocomposite studies, mushroom species Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom), Pleurotus ostreatus (Oyster mushroom), and Coriolus versicolor (Turkey Tail mushroom) were grown on plant-based substrates including cotton byproducts, wood chips, hemp hurd, and cellulose fabrics to develop packaging materials and shoe soles.

This research will use locally available materials to develop mycelium-based biocomposites for fashion products. It innovatively combines the sustainability strategies of local production and using bio-based renewable resources to solve environmental problems related to apparel and footwear industries. The University of Delaware campus is close to Kennett Square, PA, known as the Mushroom Capital of the World, where a variety of mushrooms are grown. Delaware is a major chicken producing state and also generates a huge amount of chicken feather waste. Every year, Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County (Goodwill DE) has more than seven million pounds of textiles that cannot be sold in their retail stores. The goal of this project is to use locally available, renewable materials including mushroom spawns, mushroom mycelium wastes, chicken feather and other agricultural wastes, and post-consumer textile waste to develop mycelium biocomposites for fashion products.


Using local resources and waste to develop biocomposites for fashion products, this project will find valuable uses for chicken feather waste and textile waste and help divert them from landfills. The mycelium-based biocomposites will be biodegradable, so the post-consumer waste of the fashion products made from these materials can be composted and will not end in a landfill. This project will also demonstrate cost saving strategies for solid waste management and a viable revenue source for local mushroom farms and Goodwill DE. Only edible mushroom species will be used in this study, and the mycelium composites are inherently nonhazardous (the composite development is essentially the first stage of the edible mushroom production before fruiting). This will result in a safer production environment for biocomposite production and fashion manufacturer employees, as well as safer products for users.

A team of graduate and undergraduate students in the UD Fashion and Apparel Studies (FASH) department will participate in this project. The knowledge gained from the project will be used to teach students in the FASH department about sustainable materials and fashion products. The project findings will also be displayed at UD campus events and the EPA P3 National Sustainable Design Expo. The project will also be disseminated at the national level via professional conference
presentation and publication.

Expected Results:

Mycelium based biocomposites will be developed using locally available mushroom materials, chicken feathers, agricultural waste, and textile waste. The structure of the biocomposites will be analyzed using Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). Using standard methods, the team will evaluate the mechanical properties such as flexural properties, compressive properties, and abrasion resistance; comfort properties such as thermal and evaporative resistance, and moisture management. Based on the material properties, the team will develop fashion prototypes such as shoes and accessories. The project will be demonstrated to our partners, Phillips Mushroom Farms and Goodwill DE.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

green chemistry, innovative technology, renewable, waste reduction, waste minimization, mycology

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2018 Progress Report
  • Final Report